Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Staff (01/31/13)
TITLE: Stopped and Stuck
By Catherine Craig
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She glared at the corroborating stop sign that seemingly confirmed her words spoken into the silence, and then laid her forehead resignedly against the steering wheel.
After a two-year-long ultimately disastrous effort to establish a non-profit – botched because someone had his own private agenda – Susan did not want to lead again. Oh, the heartbreak! She should have seen his undermining, but naively, hadn’t. All that effort – wasted – blown apart because of selfish ambition.
“I won’t. That’s all. Ask me to do anything else, Lord. I’ll do it. But, don’t ask me to lead again.” She mumbled after accelerating through the four-way stop, and then rolling, to rest in front of the church. “Hey there!” Susan called to a small wiry man busy snipping at a bush with a pair of scissors.
“Hi yourself,” he answered, looking up from what he was doing. “How are you?”
“Oh, I’m good,” she answered. “I’m deciding whether to take the coordinator position. Honey says I should, but I don’t know. I’ve gotten burnt before, eaten alive when in leadership by one of those I led. I don’t want to do it again, no matter how rewarding the outcome might be. Why would I want to be on staff again and invite more trouble?”
Charlie peered back at her, pausing; his eyes distorted by his glasses’ thick lenses. He said, “I’ve got your back. If you take the position, anyone trying to get to you will have to go through me.”
“I don’t know…” Susan said, feeling uncomfortable about taking the risk. Somehow – that Charlie believed in her – just his simply offering his support helped to dull the fear. Would he follow through? Everybody else let her down...
She shook her head to clear it, shifting from the past back to the present. Watching Charlie stalk away, his head held high as he moved down the hallway, she wondered, Had it been a whole year since he had made that promise?
Nearby, the new guy, William – attending their church for the first time – snorted with disgust and then swung around toward the front door. Would the newcomer be back? Probably not, she surmised. If it were she, after the ugly interaction he’d just witnessed, she wouldn’t return to their church either.
“I need to talk to you,” Susan had just said, attempting to unravel the ball of misinformation he’d gleaned by assuming the worst instead of the best about her intentions. “Can we meet briefly after the service?”
“No,” he’d answered. The expression in his eyes had matched the set of chin - cold, hard, unyielding.
“I need to talk to you,” Susan pleaded now – once again – calling after him. “We need to talk.
“Absolutely not,” Charlie shot over his shoulder as he disappeared from view down the stairs toward the basement.
Susan froze, unable to move.
“That was totally uncalled for,” Russ, her husband, commented from beside her. “You didn’t deserve that.” Light from the overhead florescent lights danced off his thick brown hair He shook his head, his stunned expression matching the way she felt.
“What an unchristian way to act,” she retorted, and peered around to see if anyone else had witnessed the humiliating scene. Thankfully, the corridor was empty. “That’s twice he’s let me down now.”
“I know,” Russ’ deepening frown turned the lines of his usually jovial expression upside-down. “Someone has been filling his head full of talk, and I know who that person is.”
“I never should have taken the first position – let alone the second one – offered to me. We used to be friends with him,” Susan moaned, feeling the familiar ache of disappointment down to her toes. The Bible is right, she thought. Gossip is like a delicious morsel; it may taste good but oh, how destructive it is! Aloud she added, “Sheila has done more damage than she knows, venting her disappointment about we leaders to whoever will listen. Now this…”
“We’d better go into the service. It’s starting,” Russ placed his large hand in the small of her back, gently nudging her toward the sanctuary.
“I want to run from church and never go back,” Susan retorted petulantly. It was the truth, though not the first time she’d felt this way.
“Who wins now, the devil or God?”
“God,” Susan answered firmly, lifting her chin. “Let’s go in.”
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